Best things to do in Paris:
3 Day Budget Guide
Whether you're looking for the best places to instagram the Eiffel Tower, or explore hip Parisian neighborhoods, our 3 day budget guide to Paris has you covered. Though this guide doesn't include the day you arrive to Paris, it's possible to modify it to fit into 2 and a half days.
With that being said, if you want to cover everything here we suggest bringing your walking shoes and getting an early start every day.
To be honest, we recommend having 4 days to cover everything in Paris because it's a big city with tons to see. But we know time is a luxury that not everyone has, so here's our our route to make the most of your time, energy, and money!
Day 1: Iconic Paris
The first day of our 3 day budget guide to Paris is going to take you to the most iconic parts of the city. Starting with of course, the Eiffel Tower. You can hit a lot in this area simply by walking or taking the metro. Depending on where you're staying in Paris, we suggest buying a booklet of ten passes for €14.90. The public transport here is affordable and pretty easy to navigate.
The first day will start and end here. Beginning at the Trocadéro Gardens stairs near the Eiffel Tower is a great place get a view of the Eiffel Tower. If you walk across the street you'll end up in Champ de Mars, a large green park that leads to the base of the tower. We recommend coming back to this spot at night to view the sparkling light show put on every hour on the hour after sunset. Click here to read about some of the best instagram spots of the Eiffel Tower and what it looks like lit up at night.
Arc de Triumph
The next stop on our Paris budget guide is the Arc De Triumph. You can see it from the road, which is a cool view, but how do you actually get to stand under it? There are several entrances surrounding the roundabout that look like metro stops. These entrances lead to stairs that will take you to the circular pedestrian area under the arc.
Entry is free, but there is generally a long line. However, there aren't any guards at the exit staircase (it's underground and you'll know it when you see it). So there isn't really anybody stopping you from going up that way if you don't want to wait in line.
Buying a ticket (€6.00/person) allows you access to the roof of the Arc - but I’d only suggest going if it’s for sunset! This view is apparently better than the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower at sunset and is definitely one of the best things to do in Paris on a budget.
The famous Louvre Museum is home to the Mona Lisa. Thousands of tourists visit her daily, snapping pictures, but to their dismay, she is very small. If you want to see some more of Da Vinci's artwork (and on a larger scale) go to Krakow, Poland, where his less famous but equally as beautiful painting of the "Lady with an Ermine" resides.
That being said, entry is €15.00 a ticket which covers the entire museum. You could easily spend an entire day in the Louvre if you want to make the most of your entry fee. You can book tickets online in advance - or wait in a long line outside the museum. Do not buy tickets from street vendors outside. Whether or not you decide to go inside, checking out the iconic glass pyramid and the surrounding gardens outside are definitely one of the best free things to do in Paris.
Pont Alexandre III
The bridge is widely considered to be the most elaborate and extravagant bridge in Paris. From here is another great viewpoint of Paris overlooking the Seine river with the Eiffel Tower in the background.
Day 2: A Morning in Montmartre
Consider this your soul food day. Montmartre is full of rich art, culture, and authentic Parisian restaurants. This is also the seafood capital of Paris, as declared by several locals. Our suggestion would be to head out early to the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur to beat the long queue - it opens daily at 6:00AM.
Mass was held the Sunday we went, here’s their schedule of mass if you want to go to one. If you can time your visit accordingly to go on a Sunday, it's quite an experience. Afterwards, take the short ten minute walk to visit Van Gogh’s apartment - you’ll know it by the large blue door!
Enjoy breakfast, lunch, or some local art at any of the stalls along the cobblestone streets. If you have time and it’s not too crowded, La Maison Rose is a famous instagram spot.
Another one of the cool things to do in Paris is explore the small little neighborhood of Saint-Martin. Here you can find the picturesque Canal St. Martin. We must admit some of the bridges have graffiti and the water is rather gross looking, but at least the green water matches the overhanging trees.
Despite all that, this area is filled with beautiful small cafés and boutique shops. The architecture is still something to marvel over and this place is only a short walk from Haut-Marais, a trendy village with summer vintage markets.
Haut-Marais Vintage Market
The #3 Borough of Paris, also known as Haut-Marais, is a hip neighborhood buzzing with small boutiques, and art shops. If you visit during the summer, there are several outdoor vintage markets open on the weekend. Even if you end up not buying anything, walking up and down the street bazaars is absolutely one of the best free things to do in Paris during the summer.
Day 3: The Best of all the Rest
The last day of our budget guide to Paris will take you to some more iconic sites in the city, and a few hidden gems. If you're feeling a bit tired from all the walking, we recommend swinging by this small bookstore for an afternoon tea and poem reading.
The first stop is the famed Notre Dame. Unfortunately this historic cathedral caught fire in April 2019 causing it to be closed for restoration during our visit in May. In fact, the surrounding streets were closed off by police so you we couldn't even go near it. Nonetheless, it re-opened for its first mass since the fire in June 2019. Entrance to the cathedral is free, but the cost to climb to towers is €8.50/person (if they ever open again).
Shakespeare & Company
After seeing the Notre Dame, we were feeling a bit tired on this overcast day and decided to look for a café. We ended up finding Shakespeare & Company's Coffee Shop/Bookstore where I (Molly) met favorite woman in all of Paris, Pamella. She leads a "Mad Hatter's Tea Party" at every Sunday at 4:00PM on the first floor.
It’s more of like a college discussion based lecture on poetry; Pam is wonderful and just lovely to be around. The bookstore itself is also worth a look and we recommend adding it to your list of the best things to do in Paris.
Either before or after the poetry reading at Shakespeare & Company, you might consider seeing the colorful street of Rué Cremieux. It’s nothing special, just a block of pretty pastel colored townhouses. We learned that it's another famous instagram hub in Paris so you might run into other photographers during your visit.
During our late afternoon visit there didn't seem to be too many people, but it's important to be respectful of the locals. Real people live here so please don't be loud and cause a scene on somebody's doorstep 🙂
Coulée Verte René-Dumont
Nearby Rué Cremieux is the Coulée Verte René-Dumont, a beautiful lifted garden footpath that runs from Place de la Bastille to the Bois de Vincennes. We were recommended to check it out by one of my (Josh) sister's friends and we're so glad we did.
This scenic walk gives you a perfect view of the gorgeous buildings within the Quinze-Vingts neighborhood. This was one of our favorite free things to do in Paris and if you have the time we recommend walking all the way down to Bois de Vincennes, the park at the end of the walking path.
Place de la République
If you're feeling up to it, the last stop on our Budget Guide to Paris is Place de la République. This place is actually located in the neighborhood of Saint Martin, so if you've already seen it on Day 2 then feel free to move on.
This plaza is a monument to the French Revolution, in which its spirit still resonate there today. True to it's roots, we saw a peaceful protest during our visit to the square.
This plaza is also a popular spot for local skaters to practice some of their street skills. We decided to grab a seat and watch for a bit while snacking down on a baguette. How much more French can you get?
Getting to Paris on a Budget
Though most people think the Eurorail trains are the best way to get around Europe, we think taking a bus is the best option to get to Paris on a budget. Hands down our favorite bus operator in Europe is Flixbus. They run to most countries and large cities, and they are by far the most comfortable buses with the most leg room.
London ↠ Paris
- Cost: €24.99+
- Time: 9.5 hrs+
- Cost: €77.00+
- Time: ~3.5 hrs
Brussels ↠ Paris
- Cost: €8.99+
- Time: 4 hrs+
- Cost: €29.00+
- Time: ~1.5 hrs
Amsterdam ↠ Paris
- Cost: €13.00+
- Time: 6.5 hrs+
- Cost: €65.00+
- Time: ~3 hrs
We also like browsing tickets on CheckMyBus to see the easiest and cheapest options. This website also suggests train tickets, but buses are usually the most cost effective option. Above are rough costs of getting to Paris from a few close-by European cities. Another good website we like to is Trainline for both bus and train tickets. They also offer a comprehensive search of the quickest/cheapest transport between European cities.
Transportation in Paris on a Budget
The best way to get around Paris on a budget is by using the bus or metro system. Paris' public transport is affordable, convenient, and reliable. Though we thought it was a little more difficult to navigate than London's Tube system, it's a bit cheaper.
Tickets can be bought at metro stations, and a single ride is €1.90. However, a single ticket will take you anywhere in the city for a flat rate and they can be used for both the metro and buses.
If you're looking for help with how to use the public transit system, Moovit is a great app that tell you exactly where you need to go from Point A to Point B. It will even tell you what stops you need to get off and which bus/train lines you need to change, if any.
Lodging in Paris on a Budget
From our experience, we like to use Hostel World to check out potential hostels, then check other booking websites like Booking.com to make our reservations. Sometimes we also message hostels directly to get a better price. We also like to use Airbnb to book accommodations if its a better deal than hostels. Clicking on either of the icons will give you a deal with either of the sites, but are affiliate links so we earn a small commission.
Dorms: €21.90+ ($24.50+USD)
Private: €24.90+ ($27.90+USD)
Amenities: Free Wifi, 24 Hr Reception, Laundry Facilities, Restaurant, Bar
Dorms: €26.00+ ($29.00+USD)
Private: €32.00+ ($35.80+USD)
Amenities: Free Wifi, Free Breakfast, Self Catering Services, Bar/Cafe
Dorms: €27.90+ ($31.25+USD)
Private: €27.00+ ($30.25+USD)
Amenities: Free Wifi, 24 Hr Reception, Laundry Facilities, Self Catering Facilities